As if it wasn’t already hard enough to understand Shakespearean language, Justin Kurzel saddles us with the task of understanding the bard’s verse while it’s being mumbled and heavy music plays over it. Which is all right if you’re familiar the words of the play, or if you’re fluent in Shakespeare. If you’re not, you’re probably going to struggle appreciating Kurzel’s Macbeth. Shakespeare’s tragedy about ambition and power centers on a military nobleman (Michael Fassbender in the titular role), his conniving wife (Marion Cotillard), and three equivocating witches whose predictions fuel treachery and treason, paranoia and pain. The bleak tone of Kurzel’s interpretation conjures up a Hobbesean, kill-or-be-killed vision of the world. It’s hard to say that Fassbender’s Macbeth has a heart “too full of the milk of human kindness.” Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth is not as creepy as Isuzu Yamada’s Lady Macbeth in Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation, Throne of Blood. Yet Cotillard is especially effective during her “Out, Damn Spot!” fifth act monologue. For better or worse, Macbeth lacks a stillness necessary for the madness to sink in. With slow-motion battle sequences, widescreen landscapes, and a finale suffused with smoke and fire, Kurzel embraces an overpowering, Mad Max style of filmmaking. Sound and fury, indeed.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White